Shou Sugi Ban – Japanese wood charring techniquecontributer external
What is charred wood?
The sophisticated and timeless look of charred wood has made it desirable across the globe. We see it has become rapidly more popular in the United States as well as parts of Europe over the last several years. However, did you know this technique is not just another pop-up trend? In fact, the charred wood treatment is an ancient Japanese wood treatment, used for it’s longevity and fire resistant nature. This heat-treated wood is referred to as Yakisugi or Shou Sugi Ban (in western countries) and it has been used in Japanese cultures for centuries. “Yaki” translates to burnt or charred while “sugi” refers to the indigenous trees of Japan known as Sugi Cypress. This traditional technique is done in order to fortify the wood while providing a flat matte black finish resembling obsidian rock.
“Timber Frame Workshop“, by Ziggy Liloia, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
What makes charred wood so unique?
Charred wood serves as more than just a pretty face. While the charred wood offers an extremely stunning appearance with unique textures and rich shades, the charred exterior preserves the wood from rot, insects, weather and fire without the use of chemicals. When this technique is done right charred wood can last up to 50 years in the rain or shine.
How is the charred wood look accomplished?
This impressive wood treatment is accomplished essentially by scorching the surface of the wood to various degrees of charr. Next the wood would need to be cooled then soften the charred surface by running a wire brush thoroughly across the entire piece. After sweeping and removing the dust, a thin layer of oil will need to be applied. This thin layer of oil, such as Rubio Sealer 707, will act as a barrier and protect the wood from weather, cracking, and breaking.
What are the benefits of a charred wood finish?
- Moisture Resistance: During the charring process a two- or three-millimeter layer of char is left behind on the surface. This shields the underlying wood from the damaging effects of moisture including erosion, swelling, warping or rotting.
- Antibacterial: When wood is fire treated the natural cellulose within the wood begins to break down. This cellulose contains nutrients that bacteria and insects need in order to survive. By charring the surface and diminishing the cellulose present, the wood becomes inhospitable to pests and insects alike. Serving as an all-natural fungicide and pesticide, no chemicals necessary.
- Fire Retardant: As the surface is charred the softer cellulose level is vaporized leaving behind the harder layer known as lignin. Lignin require a higher temperature and longer flame exposure time to burn. Therefore, there is less of a chance of charred wood catching fire.
- Rich Color: With charred wood treatments you can see colors ranging from light charcoal gray to intense jet black depending on the original color of the wood, the degree of charring, and how much char is removed in the brushing step.
- Dynamic Texture: The texture of a charred wood piece can be unique to each piece of wood. The texture can appear cracked or scaled depending on how intense the scorching was applied, the natural wood striations as well as the arrangement of the boards on the surface.
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